"If I give you money, would you go and get me some fruit?" (Seinfeld)

As I know would is not used in either zero or first conditionals. I would not have noticed that if it'd been will. Can you justify would in here, or it is just the spoken English?


This would, although it appears in a conditional, is not used in the ordinary predictive sense but in a "volitive" sense fossilized from the original meaning of will = want, desire, be willing.

This survives mostly as a "past subjunctive" in such polite questions as your example, where it means, approximately, "please", and in earnest wishes such as

If he would only listen to me! .. that is, "I wish he were willing to listen."

It does survive in present-tense form as well in such "negotiating" constructions as this:

If you'll find me the saw I'll cut that for you.

Will in the condition clause marks this as a different sense than your ordinary "first conditional".

  • I'd say this is a borderline english.stackechange.com type answer :) – mplungjan Jun 28 '13 at 7:10
  • "If I give you money, go and get me some fruit?" is a direct imperative statement. Instead of it, you could use a polite request with 'would you..?'. – JayHook Jun 28 '13 at 12:09
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    @JayHook: I don't know about that. It sounds like a somewhat confusing mixture of tense/mood/conditionality to me. Maybe a sort of shorthand way of saying "If I give you money, then you must go and get me some fruit" (but if I don't give you money, you can ignore what I just said). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 28 '13 at 17:40
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    @JayHook What FF says. Imperative is "Here's some money, go get me some fruit." – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 28 '13 at 18:03
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    This strikes me as a short form of "If I give you money, would you mind going and getting me some fruit?" – BobRodes Jun 29 '13 at 4:31

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